Dedicated Boise teen danced his way to Juilliard

Parents Billy and Lorian Gans sat down with their son to have a serious discussion about his future. They talked about college and career possibilities.

Barry was only six years old, but he was designated a dance prodigy.

“I know he was young, but coaches kept telling us he had talent,” Lorian said.

Barry focused his entire childhood on becoming a dancer. He trained up to 12 hours a day. He closely monitored his food  — sometimes a cheeseburger with fries. He transferred out of traditional high school to complete graduation requirements online.

The dedication paid off with an invitation to attend New York City’s prestigious Juilliard School, which has produced famed entertainers such as Kevin Spacey, Robin Williams, Barry Manilow and dancer Paul Taylor.

“My body is my career,” Barry said.

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How the journey began

Just after learning to walk, Barry started dancing around the house, so the Ganses enrolled him in Ballet Idaho classes at age 2.

“I took him to a class and he fell in love,” Lorian said.

The next 16 years the Ganses devoted their lives to Barry’s dance career. Instead of family vacations to the coast, it was trips to dance studios and competitions. Barry has practiced or performed at dance studios in Idaho, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

“It was expensive,” Lorian said. “It was tough, but a thousand times worth it.”

Barry, an 18-year-old Boise native, undergoes a rigorous daily training schedule. He practices up to 80 hours a week for competitions and shows.

His typical day starts at the dance studio by 9 a.m. Sometimes he’ll start with yoga. He goes home at noon for online school work, but by late afternoon he’s back at the studio. Then it’s dinner and bed.

“A balanced life for me includes a lot of dance,” Barry said.

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Barry remembers at times being exhausted, in pain and wanting to rest. But he would always push forward.

“It’s simple, but it’s not easy,” Barry said. “What really matters is what’s inside you.”

Adhering to a healthy diet is key to his life and talent. With hours of training on his body, he doesn’t eat junk food. While he loves mac and cheese and Costco potstickers, Barry instead makes green smoothies, and sticks to eating grilled chicken, fruits and vegetables.

The dancer

Barry has trained in many styles of dance — hip-hop, modern, tap and lyrical — but contemporary is his passion and ballet is his focus. He has competed across the country in many different venues.

Kim Machado, owner of Eagle’s Elevated Dance Project, has had Barry on her radar since the age of 13.

“When I saw him dance for the first time, I noticed that every move that comes out of his body is placed with equal importance,” she said.

To accommodate his rigorous training schedule, Barry attends the online school Inspire Connections Academy. He has a 3.56 grade-point average and will graduate in May.

“Barry is a high-achieving student,” said Karen Glassman, the principal at Inspire Connections Academy. “I believe he has tremendous things in front of him.”

Before starting the online program two years ago, Barry attended schools in the Boise School District and Arts West School (now Idaho Fine Arts Academy).

“He didn’t want the high school experience — he tried it and hated it,” Lorian said.

The audition

Barry set his sights on Juilliard when he was 16. He was inspired by the movies “Fame” and “White Knights”.

“I just knew I wanted to dance,” Barry said. “I knew Juilliard would offer me training to make me successful.”

In January, Barry traveled to San Francisco to audition for a spot in Juilliard’s dance program. He entered a room with 40 other dancers. The first round of cuts would leave 10.

“My biggest worry was I wasn’t going to come off completely genuine,” Barry said.

He made the first cut and went on to four more rounds of auditions and an interview.

“I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to convey a hard work ethic or a strong ballet training base,” Barry said.

When the call came on March 21 that he was accepted, he wasn’t sure it was real. He is just one of 24 dancers — and only 12 men — accepted into the dance program this fall.

“I started crying,” Barry said.

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He was not only accepted, but also received a $25,000 scholarship toward the school’s annual tuition cost of $62,000. Barry’s parents plan to take out student loans to make up for the difference. The family is fundraising to make things easier.

“A diploma from Juilliard will allow him to do things he wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere,” Lorian said. “We are willing to take out loans.”

Students in the Juilliard dance program participate in 30 performances a year throughout New York City. Barry will also dance at Lincoln Center’s Clark Studio Theater.

Barry aspires to be a professional dancer and choreographer.

“I’m able to draw from life experiences when I dance,” he said.